Adam Turner
Technology Journalist

Adam Turner is a Sydney Morning Herald senior technology columnist who has been writing about the challenges facing Australian business for more than a decade

Adam Turner
Technology Journalist

Adam Turner is a Sydney Morning Herald senior technology columnist who has been writing about the challenges facing Australian business for more than a decade

Smarter caught up with some of the class of muru-D 2015, who share the highs and lows of the incubation journey, their biggest lessons and best advice for others thinking of applying.

New technology inspires innovative business ideas that help solve problems in increasingly amazing ways. But creating a functioning startup business takes more than just a great idea. Muru-D, a startup incubator backed by Telstra, is a six-month program providing businesses with access to corporate leaders, angel investors, mentors and co-working space in order to help businesses take a prototype to reality. 

Gary Elphick and the team from Disrupt Sports

What were the biggest lessons you learnt during your time at muru-D?
 

Gary Elphick, Disrupt Sports:

The program is as much about personal development as it is about business development. I put my MBA on hold (indefinitely) to go through muru-D and grow disruptsports.com. I’ve learnt 100 times more in muru-D than on the MBA.

Cate Hull, FreightExchange:

Focus. When starting a business with a big vision it can seem overwhelming and impossible to know where to start. We learned to focus on the absolute smallest thing (market, customer segment, service), nail that and then move onto the next thing.

It was amazing to work alongside nine other early-stage businesses as they emerged from the early stages. Seeing first-hand how retail, manufacturing, internet of things companies ‘focus’ in the early stages was fascinating. Being surrounded by a bunch of multiskilled, talented folks was brilliant. Startups are relentless, so being surrounded by a community was gold.

Brent Clark and Ross McIntyre, Wattblock:

The startup ecosystem in Australia is thriving like never before. Investors hide in the most obvious places, including; LinkedIn, ex-work colleagues, alumni of the Young Achievement Australia startup program, pitch competition judging panels, Australian consulate guest lists in foreign countries and local jazz band rehearsals. 

Talk to those who you think are your customers, even if you don't really know who your customer is yet. Talking to the wrong customers helps you find the right ones.

What were your biggest challenges during the program?

Gary Elphick, Disrupt Sports:

If you read one thing, make it this, it explains everything. You’ll be inundated with options and opportunities; focusing is really hard, but you need to do it.

Ben Liau, CrowdSourceHire:

Focus was quite a challenge as we engaged with many of the brightest minds in Sydney through muru-D, and were given many new ideas, suggestions, feedback and pivot options. The key was to take all the advice, but keep focused on what we wanted to do, and in the end, make our own decisions based on our judgement.

Daniel Paronetto, FanFuel:

For us it was that we entered the program without a product. So we had to test, validate, build an MVP (minimal viable product) and get enough sales to show that we had a strong business ‑ all before demo day. That is why it was important for us that the program was six months long. It's important for startups to analyse where they are in their lifecycle in order to avoid being part of an incubator and not having enough time to actually benefit from it. 

How has your business changed since beginning the program and now?
 

Cate Hull, FreightExchange:

When we entered the program our business consisted of an idea and a team. Now we’ve thousands of business on the platform, including some enterprise customers. We are attracting incredible partners and our services have been received by both sides of the market well. We’re still as passionate and excited about the business as we have ever been!

Brent Clark and Ross McIntyre, Wattblock:

We’ve grown from two founders to six full-time and 10 part-time staff. We’ve launched an interstate office in Brisbane out of muru-D partner River City Labs, and now have a channel partner focus rather than a direct sales model [sell through third parties rather than directly to the customer]. 

What’s your advice for anyone considering signing up for muru-D?
 

Gary Elphick, Disrupt Sports:

Put aside your doubts about your business, yourself and your worthiness or inflated ego. It will be the best thing you’ll do. The best day to apply was yesterday, the second-best is today.

Get to know everyone involved, network your way in. Get recommendations from others in the ecosystem, attend events, attend muru-D open Fridays. Meet with mentors and get feedback. Contact founders and get feedback and ask questions about the program. Ask them for recommendations on how to improve; keep them updated. HINT HINT: Gary@disruptsports.com

Ben Liau, CrowdSourceHire:

Keep focused on the problem you are trying to solve. Be open to advice from others and don't hesitate to ask for help. It will sometimes feel like you’re going in circles, but every little win counts; so keep testing, measuring and scaling.

Cate Hull, FreightExchange:

Clearly define the problem you’re solving and find out quickly if anyone cares enough to pay for the solution. Practise explaining the solution frequently. Have numerous different pitches. 

Brent Clark and Ross McIntyre, Wattblock:

Apply this year and if you don't get in, apply again the following year. Fronting up second time around shows you have the tenacity to handle rejection, believe in yourself, make some tweaks and come back stronger. These are some of the basic entrepreneurial building blocks.

Can your business benefit from muru-D?

Check out the incubator program here.

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